Today I went and had some gifts wrapped at a little stall at a local shopping mall. I ignored the overtly Christian material draped all over the table the lady who was wrapping the gifts was sitting at, smiled and asked her to wrap my gifts. She agreed. I asked her how much it would cost. She told me she would take a donation for her non-profit organization that puts together food parcels for the poor and sickly including cancer patients in Port Elizabeth. I thought that his would work out rather well as an act of charity, and agreed.
I went on my merry way to have something to eat and window shop before coming back to collect the parcels. I ate at a little restaurant and then wandered the mall, listening involuntarily to Christmas carols blaring on the sound system, and in places playing the local radio station - which was also playing Christmas carols. I wondered for a moment whether any of the mall management (or the radio station) even considered what all the non-Christians must think or feel about this seasonal absence of diversity as the country's media and advertising machine appears to throw the Constitution out the window and wax all Christian on us.
I wondered also, when the last time was I had seen the same thing happen at one of the big Muslim or Jewish festivals such as Eid or Hannukah, or even Diwali. Never. But then, according to some, we are a "Christian nation" after all (even if the Constitution - and all the non-Christians in South Africa - say we aren't) so I suppose I should just be happy people aren't being rounded up and burnt at the stake, again. On the lighter side, I actually bought a white painted wooden pentagram from a (very Christian by the look of it) florist shop. Obviously they had no clue. (It's just a big white star for the top of the tree. What's a pentagram?) The contrast between ignorance and knowledge caused me to chuckle as I walked back to the stall.
The gifts were beautifully wrapped and I passed over a donation, which the lady accepted with a big smile - and then launched into what can only be described as a sermon about "We must never forget that Jesus is the reason for the season, something about heaven and blessings, blah, blah, blah". She wasn't just chatting - we had chatted a little before the rant. She had seemed quite nice then. Even rational. But even her tone and bearing changed. I kind of lost her (along with my patience) after the third 'blah" anyway - so I smiled, said "Thank you, but I'm not interested", and left before she could continue, my blood boiling.
I'm not sure she even caught on that the pentacle pendant around my neck identified me as a Wiccan, but I hope she doesn't do the same BS to her other customers. Even if she assumed I was a Christian because I was wrapping gifts AT Christmas, there was no call for her to preach at me like that. After all, not even all Christians like to be lectured by other Christians about being more forceful about Christmas being less about gifting and family and good will to others - and more about being fanatically and piously religious.
I think Christmas just over the past two years or so has shifted focus from being all about goodwill to others, gifts, drinking and feasting and partying (pretty much what the original Saturnalia festival was all about anyway) to being a religious excuse to a conservative Christian fundamentalist drive to demand evangelical zeal from the faithful to preach at anyone they encounter that "Jesus is the reason for the season" and act out of intolerance of any and all other religious beliefs over the period. And enough of this secular "war on CHRISTmas!"
Perhaps I should have just said to her - "Well actually, I am one of those people who is quite happy not acknowledging your Christ while enjoying the good parts of Christmas - that is, the food, drink, and the company of family and friends. And a very merry Io Saturnalia to you." before pickling off.
Christians who don't ram their religion down my throat every December (or every other day) are nicer to be around. Christians like this person just piss me off and make me want to give people a high five. In the face. With a chair.
I went home to add the large white wooden pentagram to the green plastic wreath I mounted on my front door. I rather enjoyed that.